The Fifties' Thirties
a work very much in progress
I'm very interested in the concept of generations, and gave
talk on this topic at the MLA Conference in Chicago, December 1995.
- Modernism, as it passed out of the era of
collaboration with political fact and into an allegedly postideological
era, always retained an argument against the very idea that such
collaboration had ever taken place.
- The making of the fifties' thirties in
poetry was getting underway as early as 1946.
- In the anticommunist imagination--in
this culturally important sense very different from the anticommunist
liberal imagination--communism bespoils intimacy so thoroughly that the
very revelation of communist affiliation can concede an already existing
transgressive kind of love.
- Anticommunist liberals incessantly theorized against the creation of oppositions.
- While deeply committed to an opposition as defining all, anticommunism
was at the same time a great proponent of the idea that boundaries delineating antagonisms were no longer clearly
- For anticommunist liberals American poetry in the 1950s had become a
hold of freedom--a deep-seated separate
peace; like the self
itself (per then-dominant theories of the self), it was a site that could
neither be pierced nor violated by nasty political force.
- For anticommunist critics, if a text was characteristically
unequivocal it was clinging uselessly, even
childishly, to a foregone aesthetic.
- When a literary critic in 1952
worried about "mass imagination" and its effects on the development of
aesthetic senses in American children he said he
to a threat created by the advance of technology, but it's interesting and
important to note that the language of threat he used closely
resembled the language of anticommunism.
for an essay-review of:
- The Great "Red Menace": United States Prosecution of
American Communists, 1947-1952. By Peter L. Steinberg. West
port, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1984. 311 pages. $35.00.
- No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities. By Ellen
W. Schrecker. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. 437
For a sense of "the fifties' thirties," see an excerpt from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s
The Politics of
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